We all know plenty of bands who hit their creative peak right from the start, which can be a double-edged sword. Sure, they’ve made a splash with their very first album, but may have used up years of creative juices in the process, making the second record an intimidating prospect, especially with the added pressure of the spotlight.
Some bands, though, manage to take their ‘difficult second album’ and give us something even more impressive, be it a refinement on their earlier sounds, or something completely unexpected but no less rewarding. These are a few Aussie bands who, despite managing to impress with their first albums, were really able to hit their stride when they had to back it up.
After Hours, Close To Dawn – Kingswood
By the time that Kingswood released their debut record Microscopic Wars in 2014, the band had been together for a full nine years. With nine years of writing, touring, and history behind them, they were always destined to release a phenomenal first attempt. Tunes like ‘Ohio’, ‘She’s My Baby’, and the slick ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’ put them squarely on the Aussie rock map, and hell, it even nabbed them an ARIA nomination for ‘Best Rock Album’ – not a bad start at all.
Three years later, Kingswood returned with After Hours, Close To Dawn, an album that put to bed any fears relating to a sophomore slump – even if it did surprise a few fans with the direction. Having spent time over in Nashville soaking up new influences and taking the time to explore different genres, they put together an impressively diverse record that somehow tied together perfectly, demonstrating their ability to step out of the rock niche they’d built for themselves to give us something completely their own. Microscopic Wars is a great rock album, but After Hours is an absolute gem.
If you’re keen to hear the latest tracks like ‘Creepin’ live, Kingswood continue their national tour this weekend (including plenty of regional dates) in Sydney and the Central Coast, then carry on through to SA and Victoria in November.
Hi Fi Way – You Am I
Tim Rogers had a panic attack after recording Hi Fi Way, truly believing that he had blown the band’s big chance with this insular collection of tales from the city – his first half-hearted stab at a concept record.
Luckily, Rogers is a terrible judge of his own musical worth, as Hi Fi Way debuted at #1 — the first of three consecutive You Am I records to do so — and is routinely regarded as one of the Top 10 Australian albums of all time, a position it doesn’t look like losing anytime soon.
Blastoma – Ngaiire
Released in 2013, Ngaiire’s debut album Lamentations was a melancholic concept record inspired by Dido’s Lament and The Book of Lamentations. While it was a great first record, her follow-up Blastoma – named for the childhood cancer she overcame – was her arrival.
Produced by Paul Mac and Jack Grace and, like her first record, independently released, it was a brilliant development of her sound anchored by more personal storytelling. First single ‘Once’ hit #73 on the triple j Hottest 100, and the album became her first entry on the ARIA album chart – all as an unsigned artist.
Be The Twilight – Faker
After years of slogging it out on the Sydney music scene, Faker had spent almost a full decade together before they released their debut record, Addicted Romantic, in 2005. Becoming triple j darlings thanks to tracks such as ‘The Familiar’ and the crowd-favourite ‘Hurricane’, the group were well on their way to becoming the next big Aussie buzz act.
In 2007, Faker dropped Be The Twilight, a record that solidified their focus and songwriting skills and managed to serve as a much more coherent record than their first. Recorded after two years of on top of the Aussie rock scene, the band had also picked up a few tips in the ‘hit writing’ department, crafting the infectious ‘This Heart Attack’ in the process, a track that managed to hit #5 in the Hottest 100 for that year.
Born Sandy Devotional – The Triffids
The spacious and grand ‘Wide Open Road’ cemented The Triffids’ place as one of the finest bands in the land, but it was the ambitious expanse of the entire album from which it was plucked, Born Sandy Devotional ,that made The Triffids truly legendary. This album sounds like Australia in the sticky hot summer, like small town gossip and huge empty plains; like a wide open road.
Mars Needs Guitars – Hoodoo Gurus
Hoodoo Gurus knew exactly what their appeal was: fuzzy, punky pop songs that were indebted equally to 1967 as they were to 1977. They tightened this approach while letting Dave Faulkner’s tunes expand past the cartoon blast of their debut, proving he has the chops to easily pen a record filled with radio-friendly pop. It’s not surprising this album helped build the band’s American reputation as one of the best power pop bands of their time.
A Song Is A City – Eskimo Joe
As the ’90s closed, Eskimo Joe were touted as one of the future stars of Aussie rock. With a fun-loving side to their accomplished alt-rock jams, the band’s profile was rising greatly. When they released their debut record, Girl, in 2001, the band had discovered a more serious side that they were able to add into their music. While still showing a youthful, fun-loving side to their music, it was clear the band were on the right track with their music.
In 2004, the group dropped A Song Is A City, a polished, grown-up album that showed musical and emotional maturity from the group. Fans appreciated their new approach too, buying enough copies of the record to see it shoot all the way to #2 on the ARIA charts.
What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have – Sarah Blasko
Sarah Blasko went widescreen for her second epic album, with big themes, a big clean sound, and production might courtesy of Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie. The album won ARIAs, sold gold, and expanded Blasko’s musical palette. Each album from here on in would be equally as ambitious and experimental, peaking with 2012’s minimalist masterstroke I Awake.
Double Allergic – Powderfinger
Powderfinger fell victim to trends and ambition on their debut album Parables For Wooden Ears, a painfully apt title given they very nearly shed the fan base they’d built with their early EPs by releasing this impenetrable collection of diet grunge and clever time signatures.
The band simplified their approach, Bernard Fanning stopped growling and started crooning, and they delivered a collection of top quality rock songs – including their breakthrough radio hits ‘Pick You Up’, ‘DAF’, and the under-rated ‘Living Type’.
Temple Of Low Men – Crowded House
Crowded House had ambitiously chased American success on their first album, and they caught it fairly quickly too, with their affable and wacky Beatlesque schtick and a collection of US radio-friendly tunes proving too much for the Yanks to ignore. But despite the bright videos and easy banter, the band was made up of dark souls, which were exposed on the difficult, brilliant Temple Of Low Men.
Kingswood’s ‘Kingswoodus Maximus’ 2017 Tour
Supported by The Vanns and Dear Seattle
Friday, October 27th
Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday, October 28th
The Long Jetty Hotel, Central Coast, NSW
Friday, November 10th
Whalers, Warnambool, VIC
Saturday, November 11th
Fat Controller, Adelaide, SA
Friday, November 17th
Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday, November 18th
Forum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC